On May 13, 1981, while entering St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City, Pope John Paul II was shot four times with a 9mm Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol. Two of the bullets landed in the Pope’s lower intestine. Another hit his finger, the fourth his arm. He lost a ton of blood, and nearly died.
Two years later, the Pope visited the assailant, a man named Mehmet Ali Ağca, and—inside a prison cell—forgave him. Hell, he didn’t merely forgive him. He petitioned the Italian government for Agca to be pardoned. Which, amazingly, he was.
I was 9 when that happened. Yet, for some reason, it’s stuck with me. The compassion. The decency. The willingness to forgive something so awful. I know he was the Pope, and Popes are supposed to do stuff like that. But … still. It would have been easy to hold a grudge; to speak the right words but, beneath his breath, wish nothing but hell and Osmond music for Mehmet Ali Ağca.
As I write this, I’m trying to get a little Pope in me. About an hour ago, I was inside my house, applying cream to the stitches that hold my dog Norma together. I wrote about this earlier in the week, but my beloved little cockapoo was ripped apart in a pretty vicious dog attack last week. The culprit was a neighborhood dog, who belongs to very nice people.
I want to be forgiving and gracious. I really, really do. And yet … I haven’t spoken to the people since it happened. They haven’t spoken to us. It feels awkward, probably because it is awkward. I had to pay a nearly $3,000 medical bill (thus far) for Norma’s care. My kids—who absolutely love the pooch—want nothing to do with her. Her body is disgusting. Bruises, cuts, the zipped stitches. It’s a nasty thing. Worst of all, Norma’s not herself. She’s a genuinely peppy dog who’s lost her pep. She’s hiding beneath furniture. She’s barely eating. When I raise my hand to pet her, she flinches. It’s hard to watch. Really, really, really hard to watch.
I feel like I’m being irrational. The people certainly didn’t know their dog would attack. It was awful for them. No doubt.
And yet … here I sit, kind of stewing.
I need some Pope magic.